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Sweet Potato “Fries”

16 Jan

Sweet potatoes are one of my favorite vegetables, especially when they’re cooked to mimic French fries.  Better yet when that cooking method still preserves the healthfulness of the potatoes (with  much less fat than actually frying and leaving the skin on, which keeps vitamins intact).  Best yet, these fries cook a lot more quickly than baking a whole potato.

Sweet Potato “Fries”

Time: 20 min, Yield: 2 servings

  • 2 sweet potatoes, scrubbed (no need to peel)
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • Salt, pepper, chili powder, cinnamon and/or cayenne pepper, to taste

Place a baking sheet in the oven, and preheat to 425ºF.  This is key to getting a crispy fry.

Slice potatoes into long wedges, and toss in olive oil and your choice of seasonings (I used all of the above – but just a touch of cinnamon and touch of cayenne).  Spread the wedges out onto the hot baking sheet and return to the oven.

Bake for 10 minutes, flip, then bake for another 5-10 min until tender and crispy.

Serve with ketchup or honey or… if you’re in the miniscule percentage of people who have this lying around, like myself…. banana ketchup!  We bought it while we were vacationing in St. Lucia and I must say it’s a pretty perfect complement for sweet potato fries.  Maybe I’ll try making some from scratch – I think it’s just banana, a touch of vinegar and tomato paste.  I’ll keep ya posted on that one!  Until then, regular ketchup or honey would do just fine!  Or if you’re feeling really crazy, how about a little bit of marshmallow fluff thinned with butter? ;-)

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Quinoa Cakes

12 Jan

When I made my tilapia with avocado-pineapple salsa, I made sure to cook some extra quinoa so that I would have enough leftover to try this recipe for Spicy Quinoa Patties.  I’d never even made quinoa before last week, but once I saw that quinoa patty recipe, I knew I needed to try it!  Plus, one of my New Year’s resolutions was to try cooking some new and different whole grains.

While regular quinoa is good (even better than couscous in my opinion, since I like the texture better), pan-seared quinoa cakes are even BETTER!  These patties reminded me a little of potato pancakes.  They were nutty and satisfying, and crispy on the outside, yet moist on the inside.  I think I will make extra quinoa every time I cook it so I can have these the next day!

Quinoa Cakes  adapted from here

Time: 15-20 min, Yield: ~8 patties

  • 1.5 cups cooked quinoa, cooled
  • 1 large egg, beaten before adding
  • 1/4 cup onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup grated cheese (I used Swiss)
  • few tablespoons seasoned bread crumbs
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • Greek yogurt, sour cream, or tzatziki for serving, if desired

Heat olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat.

Mix all the above ingredients.  The ingredients and proportions are just a suggestion – adapt it to your taste and adjust the amount of breadcrumbs until you get a mixture that makes patties which hold together firmly (not too wet and mushy, but not too dry and crumbly).

Form into 2″ patties, place in the pan, and cook until golden brown on one side.  Flip and brown on the other side.  They will take 5-8 minutes on each side.

Serve with a dollop of Greek yogurt, sour cream, or tzatziki if desired.  A little dash of Tabasco is pretty tasty too.

Bruléed Grapefruit

10 Jan

Eating a bruléed grapefruit is pretty much life-changing.  I’m not sure you will be able to go back to eating grapefruit plain again.  And you will wonder what you’ve been doing all your life before this.  It’s that good, I swear.

Here are the steps to finding eternal happiness:

1.  Slice a grapefruit in half (I assume that didn’t need a picture demonstration?):

2.  Run your knife all the way around the edge of the fruit to help loosen the sections (doing this beforehand makes it much easier to eat later!):

3.  …And cut between the sections:

4. Then, and this is key, you must slightly dry the grapefruit halves.  Gently squeeze out some of the juice (save it to drink!) and then lay the grapefruit halves cut-side down on a paper towel to soak up even more of the juice, for about 5 minutes.  If you skip this step, the sugar will dissolve too quickly and you won’t be able to get a crunchy brulée.  And I’m speaking from experience.  So make sure to do this step!

5.  Top with brown sugar.  Or white sugar.  Add a sprinkle of cinnamon if you want to get really wild.

6.  Use a culinary torch to brulée the top – using a smooth back and forth motion – until the sugar is melted, bubbling and golden brown.  Alternatively, you can put the grapefruit halves on a rimmed baking sheet and place under the broiler, about 5-8 minutes, watching closely to avoid burning.

7.  Crack the hard candy shell…………..

8.   Take a bite.  Bask in the caramelly, crunchy goodness and the fact that your life will never be the same…. and that I may be insane.

Fruit has never tasted so good.

Not-from-a-box Potato Gratin Dauphinois

13 Dec

If the only potatoes au gratin you have ever had have come from a red box….that is a problem.  Making homemade potatoes au gratin (aka potato gratin, gratin Dauphinois, scalloped potatoes, etc.) has a very large payoff-to-effort ratio.  In English, that means that it’s pretty simple to make, but the results look and taste very impressive! 

Potato Gratin Dauphinois (a fancy name for thinly sliced potatoes baked with garlicky cream)

Serves: 4 to 6; Total Time: ~ 1 hour (20 min active, 40 min baking)

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 4 large or 6 medium potatoes, washed and peeled
  • 1.5 cups half and half
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed (not minced)
  • Salt and white pepper to taste (if you don’t have white pepper, just use black – the only reason for white is if you want to keep it fancy and free of black pepper specks)
  • Fresh grated nutmeg, to taste
  • 1 cup grated Swiss cheese (Gruyère would be ideal)
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Preheat the oven to 400°F.  Butter a baking dish (I used these – one 1.25 quart plus one 16 ounce baker, but you can do this in any size pan – one large gratin in a 9×13 pan or a 9×9 square or individual ramekins!   Just adjust the baking time accordingly with the thickness of your resulting gratin).  Drizzle a little half and half in each dish to coat the bottom.

Place the remaining half and half, 2 T. of butter, garlic cloves, salt, pepper and nutmeg in a small sauce pan and heat until just beginning to simmer; reduce the heat to very low.  Keep it warm (getting all that garlic flavor out of the cloves) until ready to assemble the gratins (once you are ready, remove the garlic).

Meanwhile, slice the potatoes very thinly.  I used my food processor with slicing disk attachment, but it would have been just as good (if not better) to do this by hand – aim for about 1/8 or 1/16 of an inch thick.  If you have a mandolin, by golly use that.  I wish I had one.

Arrange a thin layer of potatoes in the bottom of the dish, followed by a sprinkle of cheese, and some hot cream. 

Repeat the layering – with more potatoes, more cheese, and more cream – until you have about 3-4 total layers.  Finish with cream (it should come up just to the top layer of the potatoes), sprinkle with a little more Swiss and with Parmigiano, and dot the top with remaining 2 T. butter (this will help the tops turn golden brown).

Bake, uncovered, for 30-50 minutes – depending on the thickness of the potatoes, thickness of the whole gratin and size of the dish.  Check doneness with a fork- you want the potatoes tender (no crunch!), but also not mushy.

Drool, eat, repeat.

Quick and Easy Creamed Spinach

12 Dec

Creamed spinach to me is a special steakhouse treat.  I’ve always kind of assumed its difficult to make or something, but as it turns out, it’s ridiculously simple!  I think this will be my new go-to way of preparing spinach for a quick, weeknight side dish.   It’s obviously not as healthy as simply sautéed or steamed spinach, but compared to how creamy and cheesy I imagined creamed spinach has to be, it is actually not bad at all! 

I made this for my husband’s birthday, as an accompaniment to meatloaf and a potato gratin.   The three together were a perfect combination.  Oh and yes, he requested meatloaf for his birthday dinner, of all things.  And he happens to love spinach, even as a kid!  Spinach even makes it in his top 3 favorite vegetables (yes, these are the things we talk about).  After making this easy creamed spinach, it might be moving up on my list too.  Here’s the recipe (adapted from one found in Food Network Magazine):

Quick and Easy Creamed Spinach 

Serves: 2, Time: <10 minutes

  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 10-ounce box frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed very dry
  • scant 2 teaspoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup stock or broth (I used turkey stock since I had it in the freezer, but any type works)
  • 1/4 cup sour cream (or up to 1/2 cup – eyeball it)
  • Salt and pepper, cayenne pepper, and freshly grated nutmeg to taste

Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat.

Add the minced garlic and saute for a minute or two (taking care not to burn it).

Add the thawed and drained spinach and toss to warm through.

Stir in flour, Worcestershire sauce, broth, sour cream, salt, pepper, cayenne pepper (just a dash) and nutmeg (just a small sprinkle).  Simmer for about 5 minutes until its slightly thickened and creamy.  Enjoy!